Mother-Daughter Duo Find Passion for Firefighting

Melissa Washburn and her daughter, Brooke’s, interest in firefighting ignited, literally, after attending the Hampden Township Volunteer Fire Company’s Citizens Fire Academy in 2019. 

“The experience was very eye-opening. I didn’t understand the scale of what the fire department does until I attended the Citizens Fire Academy, a community-based program,” said Brooke. “We got to interact with a little bit of everything, from vehicle extrication to entering a simulated, smoke-filled home. It was a very unique experience that was the starting point of my interest in volunteering with the fire department.”

After hearing that the fire company was in dire need of volunteers, Melissa and Brooke decided to answer the call, first as administrative members, then ultimately as firefighters.

“As I became more active in the department as a support staff member, I realized how great the need is for firefighters. I decided that if I could do it, then I should do it,” said Melissa. “I was a preschool teacher with no experience or family in the fire service so it was completely new to me and very much outside of my comfort zone.”

At the time, Brooke was working towards becoming a fire police volunteer, a volunteer role that helps direct traffic and crowds, often at a fire scene. 

But, when Melissa began training to become a firefighter, her daughter opted to follow in mom’s footsteps.

“It’s been incredibly rewarding to take this journey together. It’s not a conventional mother-daughter activity by any means and has been fun, yet daunting. We support and encourage each other and have learned a lot about each other and ourselves,” said Melissa. 

Melissa has been a certified firefighter since 2022, and in 2023, she was named the company’s Secretary. In 2024, Melissa was awarded Richard L. Taylor’s President’s Award. 

Balancing a full-time job and a college student, Brooke completed her final two classes on April 28, and is now a certified firefighter. 

It was such an inspiration to see her finish something she worked so hard for. I am honored to be her daughter and follow in her footsteps,” said Brooke.

Melissa’s expertise as a preschool teacher can come in handy at times at the firehouse. One of her favorite parts about volunteering is the ability to still connect with the community’s youth and educate them at the fire service at different events.

“I enjoy participating in community events where I can interact with children and show them that females can be firefighters too,” said Melissa. 

Throughout their four-and-a-half years in the volunteer fire service, Melissa and Brooke have learned countless lessons and skills that have translated into other aspects of their lives, such as always expecting the unexpected, being aware of their surroundings and creative problem-solving. Most importantly, though, they learned to not let the fear of making mistakes hold them back from taking risks and trying new things.

“I have met incredible people from so many different backgrounds that I never would have met if I didn’t volunteer at Hampden Township Volunteer Fire Company. Our department has so many members with a wealth of knowledge and experience, and they are always willing to share that knowledge and teach new people,” said Melissa.

We all learn so much from each other, and the amount of knowledge that our volunteers possess is incredible,” Brooke added. “I learn something new every day. At the end of the day, the most important part of the fire service is protecting life, property and the environment.”

Ready to Join YOUR Local Fire Company?

The Hampden Township Volunteer Fire Company is one of the 21 fire companies included in the Capital Region Council of Governments volunteer recruitment campaign. If you want to serve your community and make a difference, there’s likely a nearby fire company for you based on your interests, skills and availability. All training and gear will be provided to you at no cost.

To learn more about volunteering with your local fire company, visit